With the way it was moving the ball, Frederick’s offense had yet to punt in the second half.
And with a little over a minute left to play, Cadets coach Kevin Pirri wasn’t about to break that streak. Not even with his team facing a fourth-and-4 from the 50 and clinging to a one-point lead on the road against Tuscarora, a team Frederick hadn’t beaten since 2012.
“Just the look in their eyes. They had fire,” Pirri said. “We looked at our offensive line, and we were like, ‘There’s no way.’ Even with five holding penalties on one drive, there’s no way we can be stopped here.”
Frederick quarterback Kisaye Barnes then ran for 12 yards on a keeper, essentially sealing the Cadets’ biggest win in recent memory, a 47-46 victory over the Titans on Friday.
“He kept the ball and slid. The smartest play he made,” Pirri said.
High praise for someone who made many plays throughout the night. Barnes rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 234 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown pass to Zavian Johnson to keep the Cadets in this offensive shootout.
Like his teammates, Barnes came into this game with a sense of urgency, believing Frederick’s chances of reaching the playoffs hinged on a win.
“I feel like everybody came out just a little more hungry,” he said.
Trailing 30-20 heading into the second half, the Cadets traded touchdowns with the Titans throughout the third quarter, with neither defense able to get a stop.
As Barnes saw it, his offense owed one to the defense, which played a prominent role in Frederick’s win over Brunswick two weeks earlier.
“They really brought it home for us. And so tonight, defense needed us to step up on offense,” the quarterback said.
But Frederick’s defense eventually got stops against Tuscarora’s prolific offense, which had been getting big plays from running back-receiver Jordan Addison, running back Naseem Pacheco and quarterback Brian Jester.
After Addison scored his fifth touchdown of the night to give Tuscarora a 46-34 lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter, the Cadets didn’t give up another score the rest of the night.
And when Amir Stewart scored his second short touchdown run of the fourth quarter with 6:38 left, the Cadets enjoyed their first lead since the first quarter, 47-46.
The Titans then marched down the field and had a second-and-2 from Tuscarora’s 4. But the Cadets prevented Pacheco from running for the first down, and an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Titans pushed them back to the 26-yard line.
Later, on a fourth-and-five from the 10, Frederick sophomore free safety Jalen Bowie intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone to end what turned out to be Tuscarora’s final possession.
“My D tackles and linebacker put pressure on the quarterback, and Travon Neal, the cornerback, put pressure on Jordan Addison,” said Bowie, who wasn’t sure who tipped the ball. “Right place, right time.”
Frederick benefited from turnovers in the first half, too, with one fumble recovery at its own 4 and another fumble recovery on a punt setting up a scoring drive.
Late in the game, Frederick’s defense also limited the chunk running plays Tuscarora is capable of ripping off.
“They buckled down when it counted the most,” Pirri said. “The line play, linebackers, everyone just kind of showed all of our hard work in the last couple of years.”
All that was left was for the Cadets to get first downs against a Tuscarora team that had one timeout left, and Barnes’ fourth-down conversion run was the clincher.
“I was humbled. At the end of the game, the coach put the ball in my hands,” Barnes said. “I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to mess up on this play.’”
Frederick improved to 3-3.
“We had some struggles this year. I think we needed this one to finish out,” Barnes said. “We’re only going to go up from here. I’m really proud of the guys who worked hard this week. We were taking practice to another level.”
Frederick running back Chris Matevia had 27 carries for 146 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run.
Pacheco ran for 109 yards and one touchdown for Tuscarora (3-3).